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Former San Francisco Giants player Mac Williamson sues team over bullpen concussion

A former San Francisco Giants outfielder filed suit Tuesday against his old club, claiming its negligence — by placing bullpens in the field of play — cut short a promising career.

Jonathan “Mac” Williamson, a 30-year-old Wake Forest University alum, played 160 games over the course of five MLB seasons from 2015 through 2019, almost all for the Giants.

The lawsuit, filed in San Francisco Superior Court, targets China Basin Ballpark Company, a subsidiary of the team that owns and operates its popular waterfront stadium.

A highly regarded prospect, Williamson seemed to hit his stride in early 2018 and recorded his third home run of that young season on April 24. But in the same game, he suffered a frightening injury, tripping over the bullpen mound and going headfirst into foul ground of left field at the Giants home stadium, AT&T Park.

Johnathan “Mac” Williamson of the San Francisco Giants hits the left field wall after crashing into the bullpen mound at Oracle Park in San Francisco on April 24, 2018.NBC Sports Bay Area

“My life hasn’t been the same since suffering the injury,” Williamson said in a statement through this attorney, Randy Erlewine.

“The concussion ended my career and left me with life-long injuries that have also taken a significant toll on my personal life. I’m fortunate to have such an understanding fiancé who has been there every step of the way and helps me get through the days I suffer nausea, trouble sleeping, mood swings, and other issues. I wake up every day hoping that today is a better day and that I will get closer to how I felt before the injury.”

Back in 2018, the Giants were among just three teams with bullpens — a set of mounds for relief pitchers to warm up before entering the game — in the field of play.

The recently concluded 2020 campaign was the first for the Giants without bullpens in the field, as they were relocated beyond the center field fence at the stadium that’s now called Oracle Park.

“It has long been known that bullpen mounds on the field of play create an unreasonable risk of harm,” according to Williamson’s lawsuit.

“Prior to building the Park, CBBC knew, or at a minimum should have known, that placing bullpens on the field of play was a safety hazard for players.”

Williamson didn’t play again that year until May 25 and never regained his form. After slugging three home runs in 19 plate appearances through April 24, he hit just one long ball in his 86 plate appearances after the injury.

“Unfortunately with his post-concussion symptoms continuing, plaintiff was unable to return to form and his numbers were poor,” the lawsuit said.

“The concussion caused a steep decline in plaintiff’s performance level and effectively ended plaintiff’s Major League Baseball career.”

He was cut by the Giants in 2019 and had brief spell with the Seattle Mariners.

The Giants said Tuesday that Williamson should not be allowed to pursue this matter in San Francisco Superior Court.

“MLB and its clubs have a long-standing practice of addressing claims arising from player injuries through the collectively-bargained grievance process and the workers’ compensation system,” according to a team statement.

“Williamson’s claims are properly resolved through the grievance or workers’ compensation process, not through the courts.”

A rep for the MLB Players Association, the union which represents players, declined comment on Tuesday.

The lawsuit included public statements from then-Giants manager Bruce Bochy and current stars Buster Posey, Brandon Belt and Brandon Crawford, all calling the on-field bullpen mounds a safety hazard.

Williamson claims that late team owner Peter Magowan, who played a key role in the ballpark’s design, apologized to him later that year for having the bullpens on the field.

The lawsuit did not name a dollar figure sought by Williamson.

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